NBA removes 'occupied Palestine' from website upon complaint by Israeli minister


The National Basketball Association (NBA) removed "Palestine — occupied territory" from a list of countries on its official website Friday following a complaint from Israel's far-right culture and sports minister.

In a letter Thursday to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Miri Regev called Palestine "an imaginary state" and said the listing was not in line with President Donald Trump's recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Earlier this month, Trump formally recognized the contested city as the capital of Israel in a speech at the White House as well as plans to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem despite widespread global opposition.

Pressure from Regev came after "Palestine — occupied territory" appeared on the NBA's official website among a list of countries in which fans can vote to choose the best U.S. players from NBA teams to play at All-Star 2018.

"I view the inclusion of the delusional 'Occupied Palestine' in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimatizing the division of the State of Israel," Regev said in the letter, claiming that it hurts Israel and the many Israeli NBA fans.

"I would like to express my disapproval and am asking you to immediately remove "Palestine — occupied territory" from the list of states," she added.

Blaming a third party, the NBA immediately said it was not responsible for the wording of the listing and removed it.

"We do not produce the country listings for, and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologize for this oversight and have corrected it," said the NBA's president of social responsibility, Kathy Behrens, according to Israeli media reports.

Regev thanked NBA officials for removing the listing, saying: "Israel's lands are not occupied; therefore, what was written was false and should have been deleted."

The move drew a storm of criticism from the public.

"You do have to laugh at America really. Israel now has such control that it tells Americans what they can put on their own websites. And the Americans apologize for offending Israel," said Phelim Murnion, a Twitter user.

Jerusalem's status has long been considered a final status issue to be determined by Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and Trump's decision is widely seen as undercutting that longstanding understanding.

"The NBA should erase Israel from its league, given it is in violation of international law and is an apartheid regime and illegal occupation," said Benjamin Zac, a human rights activist.

"Let me fix this. Powerful Israeli lobby forces NBA to change its website to reflect a lie," another activist said in a tweet.

East Jerusalem, which Palestinians are seeking to make the capital of their state, has been under illegal Israeli occupation since 1967.

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